Nate Chinen

Director of Editorial Content

Nate Chinen has been writing about jazz for more than 20 years.

He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Director of Editorial Content at WBGO, Chinen works with the multiplatform program Jazz Night in America and contributes a range of coverage to NPR Music.

He is author of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Centurypublished in hardcover by Pantheon in 2018, and on paperback by Vintage in 2019. Hailed as one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, GQ, Billboard, and JazzTimes, it's a chronicle of jazz in our time, and an argument for the music's continuing relevance. It has also been published internationally, in Italian and Spanish editions. 

A thirteen-time winner of the Helen Dance–Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association, Chinen is also coauthor of Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, the 2003 autobiography of festival impresario and producer George Wein, which earned the JJA’s award for Best Book About Jazz.

Chinen was born in Honolulu, to a musical family: his parents were popular nightclub entertainers, and he grew up around the local Musicians Union. He went to college on the east coast and began writing about jazz in 1996, at the Philadelphia City Paper. His byline has also appeared in a range of national music publications, including DownBeat, Blender and Vibe. For several years he was the jazz critic for Weekend America, a radio program syndicated by American Public Media. And from 2003 to 2005 he covered jazz for the Village Voice.

His work appears in Best Music Writing 2011 (Da Capo); Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt (Duke University Press, 2012), and Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, 2012).

Ways to Connect

Seiichi Nitsuma

Here is some brand-new music with the lift we all need.

Brandee Younger

With people being filled with anxiety, stress, depression and isolation, jazz musicians have been doing their part to try and bring "live" music to them via digital content and live streaming.

Nate Chinen, WBGO's Director of Editorial Content, chats with News Director Doug Doyle about why music is so important during difficult times and how WBGO is also responding to the demand for digital content through the Livestream Hub from WBGO.

Lawrence Sumolong

"It just takes time, time to get it right." René Marie wrote that line for a tender song about an extramarital affair, but it could easily apply to the arc of her jazz career, which began when she was in her 40s.

"It just takes time, time to get it right." René Marie wrote that line for a tender song about an extramarital affair, but it could easily apply to the arc of her jazz career, which began when she was in her 40s.

Marie has built her career on the foundation of truth-telling songs like that one, "Go Home." She's the rare jazz vocalist who has put songwriting at the very heart of her enterprise, addressing the human condition through an unvarnished personal lens.

Jazz on a Summer’s Day opened in New York this week in 1960.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Over the last week, leading jazz organizations on both coasts initiated new digital programming for our socially distanced reality.

Courtesy of the artist

Many of us have recently spent an inordinate amount of time experiencing live music through our screens.

Michael Wilson / Courtesy of Nonesuch Records

Late last summer, saxophonist Joshua Redman engaged in some light time travel.

For a couple of nights, he reconvened a stellar ensemble he'd led 25 years prior, with Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums. 

Ken Weiss

Mike Longo, who led a distinguished jazz career as a pianist, composer and educator, notably as longtime musical director for Dizzy Gillespie, died on Sunday at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 83 and lived in New York.

The cause was COVID-19, confirmed Dorothy Longo, his wife of 32 years.

Lior Tzemach

Hear some new music that speaks clearly of human connection.

Mykola Velychko / iStockPhoto

Just last week, guitarist Pat Metheny finished the Australia and New Zealand leg of an international concert tour, in support of his new album. Then his band flew on to South America and learned that a remaining slew of dates — in Brazil and Chile, and all over Europe — had been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

Not many small groups were working harder in the late 1950s, to greater acclaim, than Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

"It definitely feels deeply odd to be thinking about an album rollout at this time," reflects pianist Aaron Parks. "But on the other hand, as a listener and as somebody who's affected by this as well, I know how much I'm needing to get my mind off of this."

As both a saxophonist and vocalist, Camille Thurman is a rare jazz double threat. She says "the horn is a voice, and the voice is a horn," and this consideration of the interconnectivity of her instruments informs her work as a performer, composer and educator.

On this segment of Jazz Night In America, we hear music from Thurman's band at Dizzy's Club, and parts of a performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in which she is the first woman to play a full season in 30 years.

Last year, Sons of Kemet were one of the standout acts of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. This year, the festival is one of countless gatherings that has been cancelled due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. For the music industry — and especially for bands like Sons of Kemet, which rely on the energy of live performance — the disruptions caused by social distancing have been devastating. To explain those problems, NPR's Rachel Martin spoke to Nate Chinen from member station WBGO and Jazz Night in America.

Rayon Richards

What do you do if you’re a jazz musician with a lot of time on your hands?

As New York City and other places enact restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus, we’re sure to see myriad responses to that question. If you happen to be Benny Benack III, the trumpeter and singer probably best known as a front man for Postmodern Jukebox, the answer might involve putting a novel spin on a songbook standard.

Trevor Smith / Jazz Night in America

Musicians mobilizing from their living rooms. Clubs broadcasting to a virtual audience. What began as a stopgap measure may be our new normal, at least for a while. Consult our guide.

Tjasa Gnezda

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary music.

This edition of Take Five delivers on that front, with selections from noteworthy albums on the near horizon or in the immediate rearview. Each track goes to some places you might not expect — so buckle up and settle in.

Becky Harlan / NPR

"I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," says Linda May Han Oh, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

"I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," Linda May Han Oh says, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

What that means in her case is manifold: A jazz bassist of undeniable authority, with the working affiliations to show for it; a Malaysia-born, Australia-raised resident of Harlem, N.Y.; a composer-orchestrator of burgeoning stature; an artist working to change perceptions of "women in jazz," both through positive action and just by being her bad self.

Updated on Saturday, March 7 at 11:45 a.m. ET

McCoy Tyner, a pianist whose deep resonance, hammering attack and sublime harmonic invention made him a game-changing catalyst in jazz and beyond, died Friday, March 6, at his home in New Jersey. His death was confirmed by his manager. No cause of death was given. He was 81.

Siphiwe Mhlambi / Blue Note Records

Last year, pianist Nduduzo Makhathini played a crucial supporting role on an album rooted in the culture of the Nguni people, who can be found throughout his native South Africa.

Anna Webber

Christian Sands hails originally from New Haven, Conn., which among other things is a port city on Long Island Sound. That detail sheds some small but useful light on Be Water, his reflective new concept album, which arrives on Mack Avenue on May 22.

courtesy of the artist

Along with the latest magical hookup by Béla Fleck and Toumani Diabaté.

Christien Jaspars

“Who would have guessed it would finally be my turn?” wrote Ibrahim Ferrer on the album sleeve of his second solo album, Buenos Hermanos.

Richard Smith / WBGO

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

Hubert Williams

In all likelihood, you know the voice of Rob Crocker. A steadfast announcer at WBGO for the last two decades, he has history with our station going back nearly to its inception.

This week, Rob received the Roy Wilkins Black History Month Award from the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the NAACP. “They were really gracious,” he says. “I had tremendous appreciation for the honor.”

Roberto Masotti / ECM Records

Jon Christensen, a Norwegian drummer whose firm yet flowing pulse helped shift the parameters for European jazz, notably as one of the most widely recorded sidemen on ECM Records, died on Tuesday in Oslo. He was 76.

Amazon Music

Including the latest from Reverso, co-led by Ryan Keberle and Frank Woeste.